Located about 25 miles west of Billings Montana, Pompeys Pillar National Monument protects an outcropping that houses the signature of William Clark. William Clark of the Lewis and Clark duo, famed explorer, rested here on his return trip to St. Louis. Scaling the rock he chose a spot near Native rock carvings to add his signature to the rock as well.
The Location of Pompeys Pillar
Pompeys Pillar, the rock outcropping sits on the banks of the Yellowstone River about 25 miles from Billings. There are actually a few smaller towns nearby as well but that’s the closest major city to the site. The Pillar and area have seen thousands of years of human interaction. When William Clark carved his signature it was close to other Native rock drawings which showed the level of activity in the area.
About the National Monument
Established as a National Historic Landmark in 1965, Pompeys pillar protects about 50 acres of land in and surrounding the rock outcropping on the banks of the River. In 2001, the Park received it’s current status as a National Monument. The inscription by William Clark is the only physical evidence found along the route the Corp of Discoveries traveled. Many other sites are portrayed by journal entries and many forts, etc. you can visit today are recreations.
Visiting Pompeys Pillar Montana
The park consists of several trails, a new education center, as well as wooden stairs to allow users to climb up to the rock outcropping. The new education center is beautiful, when I was there, there were only a couple other cars also visiting as well so I had much of the place to myself. The education center shares information about Lewis and Clark, the expedition, the site, and the history of the land. It’s worth spending some time, talking with the rangers and learning about Pompeys Pillar. The site was named for one of Sacajawea’s son’s whom Clark was fond of.
The rock itself is a quick walk from behind the education center. Visitors can climb the various stairs and get up close and person with the rock and signature. Take head to stay on the trail, the area is videotaped to prevent vandalism.
The view from atop the stairs is worthwhile as well. You can look across to the Yellowstone river snaking by and the landscape beyond. Visitors can likely be up and down in under 30 minutes.
The Site: Pompeys Pillar Montana is actually not run by the National Park Service, but by the Bureau of Land Management. It doesn’t change much, but it’s not among the Montana National Park Units. If you are a NPS unit counter.
Hours: Open May 1 – September 30th. The Main Gate (8:30 am – 4:30pm) | Interpretive Center (9:00 am – 4:00 pm)
Cost: The site is $7 dollars per vehicle. They also take federal passes (such as America the Beautiful)
Cancellation Stamp: Even though it’s not a national park site, it does have a cancellation stamp to collect. Just not one for your NPS Passport.
Visitor Center: The Interpretive Center is also the Visitor Center
Website: Official BLM Website
Getting to Pompeys Pillar
Pompeys Pillar National Monument is located close to Highway 94 and a quick access off the highway.
Tip: If you are using Google Maps and coming from the south, it may try to take you off highway down dirt roads. It is not faster and much harder on your vehicle. If your directions say flycreek road, Irecommend ignoring that way and go I-90 to I-94 and then take the exit close to Pompey’s Pillar for Highway 312. It is longer mileage wise via the highway but definitely less annoying.